Star Wars-Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back: Limited Edition (1980)

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Released 12-Sep-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-With George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren..
DVD Plus-Original Theatrical Version
Trailer-Lego Star Wars 11
Game-PC Lego Stars Demo
Web Links
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 119:44
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (97:57)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Irvin Kershner

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Mark Hamill
Harrison Ford
Carrie Fisher
Billy Dee Williams
Anthony Daniels
David Prowse
Peter Mayhew
Kenny Baker
Frank Oz
Alec Guinness
Jeremy Bulloch
John Hollis
Jack Purvis
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $24.95 Music John Williams

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"The special edition, that's the one I wanted out there. The other movie, it's on VHS, if anybody wants it. ... I'm not going to spend the..we're talking millions of dollars here..the money and the time to refurbish that, because to me, it doesn't really exist anymore. It's like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I'm sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it. But I want it to be the way I want it to be. I'm the one who has to take responsibility for it. I'm the one who has to have everybody throw rocks at me all the time, so at least if they're going to throw rocks at me, they're going to throw rocks at me for something I love rather than something I think is not very good, or at least something I think is not finished."

George Lucas, September 2004

     We all knew that we'd be here again. At least some of us did. For decades, the new releases of the Star Wars films on home video have generated excitement like no others. From their initial release on video tape in the early 80s to later laser disc versions in the 80s and 90s to the eventual DVD releases in 2004, the cry for Star Wars has not abated. But no matter what we see in terms of home video, there is always a desire for more, and George Lucas is more than happy to grant us all that wish...eventually...with a few conditions. So here we are again. Fans, you now have in your hand the originals. No Special Edition, no enhancements, no upgrades, no extra scenes. Here is what the die hards have wanted for years...sort of.

     The release of Star Wars in May, 1977 was the beginning of an amazing journey in cinematic history. Never before have we seen such excitement and anticipation of a series, nor have we seen such control from the film's creator. George Lucas has a unique place in cinematic history: he has total retrospective control of his creation, the Star Wars films. For fans of the series, this is both/either a blessing or a curse. Many of us grew up with the films and feel that we own them because of our affection for them. As a child growing up in the 70s, Star Wars was a bookmark of my life. I lived and breathed the film (some such as my wife and son might think that I still do), and I would not be alone. This series (and for many Empire in particular) represents a large part of their childhood. So when the series creator begins and continues to tinker with our collective nostalgic recollections, some may be a little perturbed. This is understandable. These films are more than just movies, they make up much of what made our childhood, what we dreamed, what consumed our imaginations. I don't think this is just me, and I know that it is a sentiment that is reflected around the world. I was a fanboy. Still am. I love the films. These movies play a part in my everyday life, and now the life of my son. The torch passes, but there has to be a price. Some are unwilling to pay that price.

     George Lucas has unprecedented total control of his creations, and for him they are almost a living, continuing creation. The films continue to grow and evolve over the years, and in relation to the newer chapters of the saga. This enables the saga to be consistent and play through without being disjointed. Unlike Superman III and IV, Star Trek V and Galactica 1980, no film in the Star Wars series is considered to be apocryphal (yes, even Return of the Jedi). This means that to consider the series as a whole, they need to be consistent. George Lucas did an unusual thing and started the saga in the middle, so we do take a strange, backwards step at the end of the series to it's beginning. This has created some unique issues that technology in filmmaking have revealed. By embarking on the Special Edition programme and bringing the classic films (Episodes IV, V and VI) up to scratch, we have a more cohesive series to enjoy. There will be those that disagree. It is their right to do so.

     These original versions of the saga, available on DVD for the first time ever, are only 'in print' until December 31, 2006. Then, they will no longer be available in the form that is on release now. Will we see them again? When the Special Editions were released in 2004, I was inundated with mail and messages stating that what we have on offer now would never see the light of day. Well here we are, just as I predicted, and here we all have it (potentially) in our hands. Will we be here again? Yes. Will we buy these film again? Yes. HD-DVD? Yes. Blu-ray? Yes. Some other 'solid state' flash format that we've never heard of? Of course. The saga will continue, mark my words (again). Meanwhile, enjoy. Revel in the nostalgia of a bygone era. I know I have...and will again.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     This release sees the newer Special Edition bundled with the new release of the original version of the film. We concern ourselves here with the original version of the film. For information on the Special Edition, which is exactly the same as that as what we received in 2004, have a look here.

     This version of the film is presented in 2.35:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Note that the copyright warnings, distributor's logos and menus are all 16x9 enhanced. The only part of this presentation that isn't is the film itself...dissapointing. This version of the film is taken from the pre-Special Edition laser disc released in the early 90s (reportedly the 1993 Trilogy Definitive Collection versions or the masters of same). State of the art 13 years ago. Oh, the joy...

     If you are a fan of the original films, but 'caved in' and bought the Special Edition versions of these films, then returning to the 'original' versions is a real eye-opener. There is much to fault, and the difference between the originals and the Special Editions is the difference between VHS (Very Hazy System) and DVD. The lack of clarity is immediate and obvious. Watch this on a 68cm CRT without 16x9 switching in composite form, fine. You may just find this the best that the films have ever looked before. Watch it on a quality display, through a quality player via quality connections and you will find much lacking in the video department. Black levels are all over the place, from muted to quite good. The scenes when Darth Vader has Luke on the gantry at the end of the film demonstrate some good black levels, but for the most part, shadow detail and black levels are fairly ordinary.

     Again, spoiled by the Special Editions in 2004, the colour levels here are fairly ordinary. The colour seems muted slightly and not what we'd expect with current quality DVDs. It isn't a complete write-off as colour is concerned, but it is far from reference quality, and not what fans wanting the original film would hope to see.

     The compression levels on the disc are quite good, with an overall bitrate of approx. 8.50kb/s running throughout. Superbit levels? Sure. Superbit quality? Hardly. If you have a really good version of a bad source, then you have a really good bad DVD. This is fairly ordinary. It isn't really the source's fault. We have a decent transcription of the laser disc from the early 90s here, and we really can't expect any more. It is as good as we might expect. Want better? Wait for the HD version in the next year or two. Meanwhile, all the film grain, nicks and specks (the whole of the Hoth battle especially), frame jumps (97:57 for example) are all hard to escape here.

We get a few subtitles with the disc, but the main issue here is that since the film isn't 16x9 enhanced many with 16x9 displays will use various zoom functions to enlarge the image to it's correct aspect ration. Doing this will render the subtitles unreadable. To view the subtitles, one must watch the film in full frame 4x3 format, with it's squashed image. Want the right shape? No subtitles. You choose. Good choice...perhaps not.

     This disc if formatted dual layer with the layer change taking place at 55:11 within Chapter 27. It is in a quiet part of the film and may be unnoticeable for many viewers.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The audio here is reasonable, and what we would expect from a decent 2.0 stereo source.

There is only one audio option with the original version of the film, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack running at 448Kb/s.

     I found the audio quality reasonable, with a fair amount of clarity available throughout. Not what we would like in terms of top quality audio transfers, but acceptable considering the source.

     Dialogue quality is good, with the spoken word clearly audible throughout. ADR is fairly obvious at times, but it is so common with the films in the series that one couldn't reasonably criticize the transfer that reveals such. I found audio sync to be of reasonable quality as well.

     Music for the film comes from prolific soundtrack composer John Williams. Providing the soundtracks to Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. among others, Williams' music on this film is world class. For the first time we hear themes such as the Imperial March, which would ring through the entire series from Episode V and VI as well as I, II and III. Consistent quality filmscore from the master.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack will provide some atmospheric surround sound with a quality sound system, but there is no discrete 5.1 or above soundtrack here.

     I found LFE here to be reasonable, but the remastered 5.1EX soundtrack available on the Special Editions is far better.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     The 'Original' version of the film is the extra here. The Main Disc is the same Special Edition version released in 2004, including disc cover art. The 1993 transferred from laser disc version is included here as an additional extra.

     After the normal copyright warnings, we are taken the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:

     The disc's Main Menu is animated and features audio from the film's soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0.

     Selecting the Special Features offers us the following:

     To access the game demo, you need to open the disc via your computer (not the disc's menu) and select the Menu file in the programmes window. This will open the interactive menu which offers up the following:

     The menu here is full frame and static and not accessible from your stand-alone DVD player.

*Minimum System Requirements

Required: 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible computer
Required: Intel Pentium III 1.0 GHz or AMD Athlon 1.0 GHz
Recommended: Intel Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or AMD Athlon XP 2.4 GHz
Required: 256 MB RAM
Recommended: 512 MB RAM
Graphics Card
Required: 32 MB 3D Graphics card with Vertex and Pixel
Shader (VS/PS) with V1.1 Capability
Recommended: 64 MB 3D Graphics card with Vertex and Pixel
Shader (VS/PS) with V1.1 Capability
Sound Card
Required: 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible Audio Device
Required: DVD-ROM drive
Input Device
Required: Keyboard, mouse, joystick or gamepad
Recommended: Gamepad
Microsoft DirectX 9.0c is included on this CD. You will be
prompted to install DirectX during the installation of this
game if this or a more recent version isn't already properly
installed on your system.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This package has been released worldwide with the Region 1 version very similar to that which is on offer here. The only real difference is that the Region 1 offers audio for the Original Version in French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 as well as English: our Region 4 version is only in English. However, we have subtitles in English, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. The Region 1 disc only offers English. Also, the Lego Star Wars II Demo is for X-Box and not PC as ours is here. With these seemingly minor differences, we could call this a win for Region 4 purely on the fact that there is better affordability and a PAL transfer. Overall, though, it should be called a draw.


     I knew we would see this package at some stage. Frankly, I'm surprised to see it appear so quickly. To all those out there who thought that we wouldn't see these original films because Uncle George told us we wouldn't, this is proof positive that you shouldn't believe everything you read. To all those out there who are disappointed that we have such a substandard package (and make no mistake, this package is substandard), rest assured in the knowledge that there will be a better package available in the next year or two. It will come. As long as George Lucas has any say, we will all be buying this package again...and again...and again...just like we have for the last 20 plus years. The future will be no different.

     The video here is reasonable, considering it comes from an early 90s laser disc. The transfer print used by that laser disc is fairly ordinary, with much grain, film artefacts and lack of shadow detail evident. A really good copy of an ordinary laser disc. Better than VHS, though.

     The audio is reasonable with the original Dolby Digital 2.0 mix on offer.

     The extra for this package is the Original Version of the film on DVD, available for the first time.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Friday, September 29, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDLG DF9921P Upsampling DVD Player via HDMI and Panasonic DVD RP-82 via Component , using HDMI output
DisplayLG 37LP1D Flat Panel LCD 94cm (37"), 1366x768 8ms (GTG). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RX-V2300 Dolby Digital and dts. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2300 110w X 6 connected via optical cable and shielded RCA (gold plated) connects for DVD-Audio
SpeakersVAF DC-X Fronts (bi-wired), VAF DC-6 Center, VAF DC-2 Rears, VAF LFE-07 Sub (Dual Amp. 80w x 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
The SE Versions aren't as bad as most people claim - Gavin Bollard (bio - updated 9 Nov 2005) REPLY POSTED
Re.The SE Versions aren't as bad as most people claim - Nick
Ridley and Aliens -
Re: The SE Versions aren't as bad as most people claim -
Re Ridley and Aliens *SPOILERS* - Neil
Re Ridley and Aliens *SPOILERS* -
Re Ridley and Aliens *SPOILERS* -